Since his freshman year at Evanston Township High School, Elie Platnick has been the player the ETHS chess team has counted on to face the opposing team’s strongest player.

He has usually come out on top in these Board 1 matchups, especially at the Illinois High School Association Chess State Finals, where his strong play helped the team take fourth place in 2020, third place in 2022 and second place this year.

ETHS chess team at the IHSA State Finals awards ceremony on Feb. 12. Front row (from left): Coach Tom Doan (standing), Jonah Chen, Boaz Lieberman, Chris von Hoff, Somil Bose, Adam Elgat and Coach Keith Holzmueller (standing at right). Back row (from left): Luca Zerega, Rohil Bose, Henry Zaslow, Tate Darin, Nathan Melnikov, Elijah Platnick and Meris Goldfarb. Credit: IHSA Twitter

The team’s finishes in 2022 and 2023, earning IHSA team trophies, are the best back-to-back results for ETHS chess since consecutive top three finishes in 2004 through 2006.

Platnick is one of seven seniors, along with Nathan Melnikov, Henry Zaslow, Rohil Bose, Boaz Lieberman, Meris Goldfarb and Luca Zerega, that the Wildkits will need to replace on next year’s team.

Platnick had never lost a state finals game in Peoria until this year, when he defeated his master level opponent in round four but fell short in his games against the tournament’s two highest-rated players in rounds five and six. He won in every other round to finish with five wins in his seven matches.

In the last round match, Platnick’s quick win led ETHS to a convincing victory over the Illinois Math and Science Academy, which clinched second place in the State Finals.

White: Elijah Platnick, ETHS
Black: Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA)
1e4 c5 2Nc3 Nc6 3Bb5 Nd4 4Bc4 e6 5Nge2 Ne7 60-0 a6 7Nxd4 cxd4 8Ne2 b5 9Bb3 Nc6 10d3 Bb7 11f4 Be7 12Ng3 

Black to Move

12…Na5?!  Black should consider queenside castling to sidestep white’s preparations for a kingside attack. One interesting idea is 12…h5!? 13Nxh5 g6 14Ng3 f5, when white has won a pawn, but black can use the open h-file to mount an attack on white’s king.
13Qg4 Nxb3 14axb3 g6 15f5 Qc7 16 Bf4 e5 17Bg5 h5 18Qh4 Qd8? Black should trade bishops and only then play Qd8, when he would only be at a slight disadvantage.

White to Move

19fxg6! Bxg5 White’s piece sacrifice is totally sound. If black plays 19…fxg6, instead of capturing the knight, white can play 20Rf6! Rg8 21Nxh5, and black has no satisfactory way to stop white’s attack.
19…Bxg5 20g7! Threatening 20gxh8, capturing black’s rook and promoting to a queen.
20…Rg8 21Qxh5 Bf4 22Qh7 Ke7 23Nf5+ Ke6 24Rxf4 exf4

White to Move

25Nh6?! The best continuation is 25Qh6+!. After 25…Qf6 26Qxf4 Qe5 27Qg4 black has no good way to avoid the threat of 28Nh6+, which will lead to a material advantage for white. 
25…Rxg7? Black misses his chance to play the game-saving 25…Qh4! After 26Qf5+ Kd6 27Nxg8 Rxg8 28Qxf7 Qh7 29Qxf4+, white’s queen can chase black’s king around the board but can’t deliver a knockout blow.
26Qxg7 Qf6 27Qg4+ Kd6 White is winning, and his next move forces black into a hopeless position.

White to Move

28e5+! This forces black’s king into an exposed position in the middle of the board. Black would lose his queen after 28…Qxe5 29Nxf7+.
28…Kxe5 29Qxd6 Qxh6 30Qxb7 Rh8 31Qe4+ Kd6 32Rxa6+ Kc7 and black resigns.

White to Move

White has a forced checkmate: 33Ra7+ Kd6 34Qe7+ Kd5 35Rd7+ Kc6 36Rc7+ Kb6 37Qc5+ Ka5 38Qa3+ Kb6 39Qa7 mate.

Keith Holzmueller

Keith Holzmueller has been the head coach of the Evanston Township High School Chess Club and Team since 2017. He became a serious chess player during his high school years. As an adult player, he obtained...

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